Touch Not God's Anointed?
"But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” … But then one of the members stood up and shouted, “Touch not God’s anointed!” So Paul apologized to Peter for criticizing him and went about his business.
So maybe that last part didn't happen, but many people actually use this phrase today.
With recent advances in technology, we have seen an explosive growth in the media, exposing us to information from all over the world. In one sense this has been a tremendous blessing, as we now have access to many solid Bible teachers and online resources to aide our spiritual growth and connect us with other believers. On the other hand, we are also exposed to false teachings from ministries that use media to gain global influence. This has given rise to many pastors publicly rebuking certain false teachers and ministries, exhorting their members to mark and avoid them, yet when these rebukes become public through the media, an increasing number of people respond with the phrase “Touch not God’s anointed”.
What Does It Really Mean?
This comes from 1 Chronicles 16:22 and is mentioned in Psalm 105. In the Charismatic Movement this verse is invoked as a sort of warning to those rebuking false prophets and teachers. “Touch not my anointed ones, do my prophets no harm!” is reinterpreted to mean people should not criticize the teacher or so-called prophet because God has set them apart for some special purpose. This twisting of scripture is dangerous for several reasons. To understand why, we will examine the original context of the verse and the different instances where “anointed” is used in both Old and New Testaments.
In 1 Chronicles 16, David recounts God’s faithfulness to Israel as they wandered in the wilderness. During this period their small camp was extremely vulnerable to attacks from the surrounding kingdoms, yet “[God] allowed no one to oppress them; he rebuked kings on their account, saying, ‘Touch not my anointed ones, do my prophets no harm!’” Those of Abraham’s descent were to inherit the Promised Land, and God was faithful to keep them from harm. The rebuke was to those rulers wanting to attack them. It’s in reference to physical harm through military force, not verbal criticism. This was a specific statement to a particular group of people.
There are other instances in the Old Testament where individuals were anointed for special purposes. Saul was anointed of God, yet when he disobeyed God’s command to destroy the Amalekites and their possessions, the prophet Samuel openly rebuked him.
When David had the opportunity to kill Saul, he opted not to physically harm him, for “Who can stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?” (1 Sam 26: 3-11). Even then David rebukes Saul for trying to kill him out of jealousy. Again there was no physical harm, but instead chastisement for wrongdoing.
So Who Is Anointed?
So is there any mention of the Lord’s “anointed” in the New Testament? It turns out all who are in Christ are considered anointed (2 Cor 1:21–22). Since we are adopted into the family of God through Christ, we are anointed. The Greek word for anoint is “chrio” meaning to rub oil on, signifying consecration for office or religious service. Our religious service is living righteously and advancing God’s Kingdom (1 John 2:27).
Why is it important to address the usage of this phrase? As I’ve stated in a previous post, it is wrong to hide God’s word by promoting a false interpretation. We also miss out on the real meaning of a passage meant to celebrate God’s faithfulness to His people. Finally, we create false notions about Christian living and promote dangerous teachers. The misinterpretation of not touching God’s anointed gives the idea that some leaders are above reproach. It is a cover for false teachers that keeps them from accountability. It can create a false Christian hierarchy, making some believe God doesn’t favor them unless they have an “encounter” with Him. This elitist rhetoric elevates false teachers and puts them above reproach, helping them promote their deception. We ought to put this passage back in its right context, and when we do call out false teachers we do it in hopes of them turning them from their error and rescuing those who are deceived.